Nestled down a Soho side-street, in what was once one of London’s buzziest areas, property developer Fawn James hopes she can bring back a hint of unpredictability to the scene with her latest venture, the Boulevard Theatre.
James’ grandfather, Paul Raymond, launched Raymond’s Revuebar in the heart of the district. While the venues biggest draw was, for a long time, being the hub for erotic entertainment (it was the only place in London full-frontal nudity could be seen onstage), it also housed a theatre space called the Boulevard.
Predominantly showcasing alternative comedy, it provided a space for comics like Eddie Izzard and The Comic Strip (a group which included the likes of Rik Mayall, French and Saunders and Adrian Edmondson) to perform.
But as the Revuebar began to compete with the likes of Spearmint Rhino and Stringfellows, audiences fell and the Revuebar went into administration in 2004.
Now, as part of wider developments to Walker’s Court, James hopes to breathe new life into the space by transforming it into a cosy, intimate, but boundary-pushing space.
While the 165-seat capacity may seem small in comparison to similar central London spaces (the Donmar Warehouse holds 251), the designers have been forced to think outside of the box to make the most of this black box space.
What they came up with was an all-accommodating design, which sees not only the stage revolve and rise/fall to allow different configurations, but the balcony also revolves in both directions, meaning creatives will have a plethora of possibilities when staging their work.
Rachel Edwards is in charge of the artistic direction of the space, which she says will predominantly produce plays, but also has plans for late-night shows Wednesday through to Saturday, as well as a Sunday programme.
At the theatre’s launch on Tuesday, we spoke to James and Edwards, as well as designers Charcoalblue and SODA Studio about the vision for the space, and how they have created it with the legacy of Soho in mind.